Unsurprisingly, scientists are witnessing more attacks on their disciplines by religious fundamentalists who will never accept the fact that science is more suitable to explain the world than still-to-be-proven dogmas. This time, someone called Edward Feser, a member of the right-wing, catholic Witherspoon Institute, angrily attacks Lawrence Krauss, an astrophysicist – and a well-known, strident atheist as well. Feser implies that Krauss – and thereby science – should shut up because science could not answer some questions about our world whereas philosophy, according to Feser, could.
As surprising as it might sound, I fully agree with Feser when he states that science has no answer to why-related questions. Indeed, why there is an universe rather than nothing, why life has emerged on Earth despite the extremely low probability for this to occur, and whether there is a purpose with this universe are philosophical issues. Science can explain how things work, but definitely not why. Still, I always get on my guard when I hear such people arguing against science.
First because science has deeply contributed to the improvement of mankind’s condition. Even if it has no jurisdiction on moral or philosophical issues, science has allowed us to be healthier, to live longer, to improve our living standards, and to get rid of religious nonsense which was more harmful than beneficent, such as superstition leading to witch hunts, crusades, or the Inquisition – which some religious people never forgave it for. Second, because philosophical concepts might be vague and lead to as many possible interpretations as there are human beings, so philosophy is – very – useful, but it cannot bring other kinds of answers than personal to untestable concepts. Thus, philosophy has no precedence over science. For those reasons, this article has filled me with unease.
Indeed, this is an attack from people who try to influence their country’s political and cultural life. Any dogma has to come up with very strong evidence speaking for it before being entitled to impose itself on others’ lives. The Dover trial on Intelligent Design has shown that strongly religiously motivated people don’t embarrass themselves with moral issues when it comes to promoting their own beliefs.